In the wake of recent news and the MeToo movement, I want to share my story with you. Not so that you tell me that I’m brave, or for your condolences, or to make a man into a monster, but to simply say, it’s not always who you think it is, and nice guys make bad decisions sometimes.
In the summer of 2012, I was back to work after having my third little guy. As many working moms of newborns do, I was nursing my baby which required me to pump at work. My employer at the time had a room (that locked) that I was able to use to pump twice a day.
The room could be used for other things, too; there was a shower in there (I don’t think anyone ever used it), and there was a scale in there where people would be weighed during our company-wide fitness challenges. But for the most part, it was a life-less room where nursing mothers could pump in peace.
One day in July I unlocked the room, set up my equipment and completed my 20-minute pump sesh. During my time in there, I’d often play games on my phone or read a magazine. After I finished I noticed the keys and cellphone of a coworker on the paper towel dispenser that faced the chair seated in the corner of the room. I stood at the counter while I pumped, rather than sitting down, since the outlet didn’t reach to the chair.
I don’t remember how I knew whose keys these were, but I did, so I graciously walked out to the warehouse and returned them to him. He thanked me and said he must have left them in there when he was weighing in.
No big deal.
Fast forward a few days and this guy, a friend at work, someone who I had had many conversations with, whom was a great guy that everyone loved and trusted sent me an email and asked for a picture of my kids, he was going to print me a picture of them on a new substrate to test out one of our new printing machines – so thoughtful! I obliged and sent the photo.
The next time I opened the door to pump in the afternoon I noticed the picture of my kids on the counter, right in front of where I stood to pump. So nice of him to leave it for me in here, and gee, my kids are cute! I went about my business, pumped and while I went to put my stuff away, I glanced to the counter on my right and noticed a cellphone propped against the counter facing directly where I was standing.
Please don’t let the camera be on, I thought immediately.
I picked up the phone and the screen was black except for a tiny red light near the bottom. I froze. I knew whose phone this was immediately and I had no idea what do to. I was shaking as I finished packing up my things and I walked out of that room and straight to HR with the phone in my hand.
I told our HR person what had happened and gave her the phone. She promised me she would talk to the guy and ask him to show her his videos to ensure nothing had really happened.
I went to my boss after that and told him what happened.
Here is the summary of what happened next:
- They talked to the guy, he showed them his videos and nothing was on there (obviously, he’s not an idiot)
- The guy denied all of it
- The guy cried
- The guy said he would allow anyone to take his phone and look at it, ANYONE – he was not guilty of this
- The guy said he’d never do this to his family, to his wife
- They gave him his phone back and told him to bring it back the next day to be handed over to specialist who could review everything on the phone
- He agreed to bring the phone back the next day
My boss met with me after speaking with him and said, “I don’t know. I think I believe him. I looked in his eyes and I don’t think he’s lying. I think this is a big misunderstanding.”
I knew it wasn’t. In my belly, I knew it wasn’t. I went home and I was scared. What if this guy knows he’s going down and he wants to take me down with him? What if he comes to my house and hurts my family? What if he’s a total psychopath?
The next day was my regular day off. My employer promised to contact me after they had the results back from the phone specialist.
I didn’t get a call until 4:00pm. And this was what they told me, “He came into work this morning and said his phone had been stolen. That’s when we called the police. You will be contacted by the detective on this case.” They said more than that, and they were very sorry, and I felt taken care of, but man, I was scared and I felt betrayed that no one had believed me at first.
It turns out this was not his first offense of sexual misconduct. And in the days and weeks ahead I had to go about my business and chose not to talk about it with everyone at work. People were talking, the police had come and seized his computer, among other things. He had been put on leave, and no one knew for sure why. I did. I was the victim of his actions.
They never found the phone, but it doesn’t matter. Using a computer to commit a crime is the crime, not whether you actually capture video or not.
The county pressed charges and since this was his third offense, he went to prison for 18 months. He was a good guy. With a wife and two kids and a job that he excelled at and lots and lots of friends. He went to church, he helped people, HE WAS A GOOD MAN. And he also attempted (twice, I believe) to video tape my breasts as I pumped in a secure room at my workplace.
I haven’t told many people – only my family and close friends. Because I don’t want a bunch of attention about it, and it’s weird, and it’s private. Those are the reasons we (victims) don’t talk about it. We want to just move on. Until it’s too much and we have to speak up to say “This happens. This happens more than it should. And people should know and be held accountable.”
I am not afraid of every man. And I don’t think every man has ill intentions. I think there are lots of people in this world (men and women) who have urges they can’t control. I think there are people who are sick, and need help. And I think there are people who simply make bad choices. Should we be held accountable for our actions? Absolutely. Should we apologize and seek redemption? YES! Should we be offered grace and mercy when we do so? For sure.
I wish no ill-will to the man who did this to me. I hope he gets better. I am sad that I, too, can say “it happened to me,” but I am hopeful for a movement of change.
Peace and grace. xoxo.